Last Thursday I went to Connecticut to witness a sheep and alpaca shearing. It was amazing. My mother knows a woman who's family owns a mobile petting zoo. What an sweet idea! They travel around Connecticut doing children's birthday parties, visit nursing homes and other events. They were kind enough to offer me whatever fiber I wanted. How cool is that?!
|getting ready for a trim!|
Jay from Mariacher Shearing was there and sheared 2 alpaca and 5 sheep. I think if he hadn't actually humored me and answered all my questions he could have done it in under an hour. But we all couldn't stop gabbing. He was quite knowledgable, considering he's been doing this for a very long time and shears over 2,000 animals in a year (I think it's actually closer to 4,000+, but I could be wrong).
|the fleece comes off all in one "piece"|
What I found most amazing was that the sheep didn't put up much of a fight. I suppose you can't if you're sitting on your bum with your legs in the air, and I'm sure they were nervous, but whatever.
He was kind enough to skirt the edges for me, which basically means he got rid of all the nasty matted fiber and the stuff that was too short to do anything with.
Sheep produce a substance called lanolin which, we think of as a grease but is actually a wax. This does a variety of different things for the sheep, including keeping the sheep dry in wet weather. It looks and feels like an expensive tan colored grease-hand-lotion-like product which coats the entire fleece. I was amazed at just how much was present. But wow did it make my hands feel supple and soft and was surprised I couldn't detect an odor. Since it was a chilly day, once off the animal the lanolin would harden almost instantly. Between sheep, the shearer had to chip the lanolin off the shearing head with a sharp tool. If he didn't, the clippers would clog to the point of not working.
In the end, I ended up taking two fleeces. One is from - wait for it - the lone black sheep of the family:
|the matriarch of the small flock|
|Who's a pretty girl??|
Unfortunately, I don't have any good pictures of the alpaca shearing. He did them first and I was so in awe that I forgot to take pictures. I took the fiber from those too. How soft and lustrous! I'm excited to learn how to spin it all!